Small is Beautiful
E. F. Schumacher
1973

History repeats itself, the fist time as tragedy the second time as…well, worse. Small Is Beautiful was economist Schumacher’s response to the global economic and energy crises of the early 1970s, and if you’re looking for either a case of deja vu or a reason to reflect on humankind’s unique ability to learn absolutely nothing, then this book is for you.

A collection of essays on ecology and economics, the seminal Small Is Beautiful tackled not just capitalism but the very premise of a growth-based economy, seeing the 1973 oil crisis as the beginning of the end for the global economic order as it was. The first stirrings of what we know as globalization, the first clear indications of ecological collapse, the bankruptcy of an economics whose funamental premise was ‘bigger faster more’. And the possibility, instead, of a local, needs-based way of doing economic life that was both socially and environmentally stable.

The organic food movement, sustainable development, the ecological footprint, fair trade, decentralization, peak oil – Schumacher didn’t invent these. Schumacher doesn’t necessarily talk about them, nor was he in any direct way the father of the current movement. But all of the above arise from a basic analysis to which E.F. Schumacher was a major contributor. His Small Is Beautiful was a hugely important text in the 1970s, and one of the major intellectual foundations of the alternative economics and growing environmental movements of that decade, and remains profoundly important for anyone interested in the current economic and ecological crisis. Or, more to the point, it’s profoundly important for all of us; but a must-read for those who are not content to ignore this crisis like we all tried to do after 1973.

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